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By The Inlander & r & & r & BECOMING JANE


The Harlequinization of Jane Austen? Becoming Jane doesn't go that far. In fact, while the movie takes license with some hints from Austen's life, it's also a reminder that unrequited love can fuel some affecting prose. It's a movie that knows how to dramatize the essentially undramatic life of an author. And yes, Hollywood romanticizes: Anne Hathaway is more beautiful and self-assertive than Austen ever was. (MB)





THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM


The second sequel in the Bourne series takes everything up a couple of notches, while revisiting the same territory that made the first two films so good. Matt Damon returns as the amnesia-suffering former CIA agent, regularly chased and shot at by his own people, for reasons that are eventually revealed. But there's also trouble between members of the CIA camp (David Strathairn, Joan Allen) who dislike each other. This is an excellent addition to the Bourne film catalogue. (ES) Rated PG-13





DADDY DAY CAMP


First there was Daddy Day Care, in which Eddie Murphy and Jeff Garlin started a daycare center. The film made so much money, another was ordered. Garlin was thrilled; Murphy was not, and he dropped out. Now we've got Cuba Gooding Jr. in the Murphy part, and Paul Rae (who?) in the Garlin part. The title says it all, except for this: This marks the feature directorial debut of Fred Savage (The Wonder Years; he's 30 now). (ES) Rated PG





DEATH AT A FUNERAL


Perhaps best known as the voice of Yoda in all those Star Wars movies, Frank Oz is also an accomplished director (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels). Now he's back for the first time in years with Death at a Funeral, a British black comedy about all the mayhem that ensues after a rich patriarch passes away ... and his young, gay lover arrives to join in the grieving. Of course the kids visualize their trust funds going up in smoke, Anna Nicole Smith-style, so they hatch a hilarious plot, if Oz still has the touch. (TSM) Rated R





HAIRSPRAY


There have been plenty of big, splashy musicals in recent years, but why are they always so grim? This one, about teens in Baltimore in the early '60s, is incredibly happy, and heck, John Travolta plays a 350-pound woman! It's about mother-daughter relationships, husband-wife relationships, times of racial change, all celebrated in catchy song and dance. Yes, there is such thing as a feel-good movie. (ES) Rated PG





HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX


The best Potter to date makes the previous, comparatively bloated entry almost forgettable. This streamlined version of the immense fifth book picks up with Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) threatened with expulsion from Hogwarts for using his magic in public. The ever-sprawling story relies less on the friendships among him, Hermione (Emma Watson), and Ron (Rupert Gint), and more on a transformation from fantasy to horror, with politics thrown in. (ES) Rated PG-13





HURRICANE ON THE BAYOU


Katrina can be discussed in human, social and political terms in forums ranging from political roundtables to Spike Lee films. But Hurricane on the Bayou examines the hurricane as an ecological issue. Beginning as a documentary about the Mississippi Delta, the filmmakers end up turning their IMAX cameras on Katrina as an example of a worst-case scenario. (MD) Not Rated; no deaths are depicted





I NOW PRONOUNCE YOU CHUCK AND LARRY


Two FDNY firefighters must pretend they're gay to keep their benefits. The reason that firefighters Chuck (Adam Sandler) and Larry (Kevin James) are pretending to be gay doesn't make much sense, but why should it? It's merely the entire plot. But the most important lesson of all is that Sandler and James are not themselves homosexuals. (BK) Rated PG-13





THE LAST LEGION


Rome doesn't want a Caesar ruling any longer - no surprise there. The young ruler, Romulus Augustus (Thomas Sangster from Love, Actually), is forced out in a social coup turned violent and is sent on an adventurous quest with Colin Firth and Ben Kingsley. As legend has it, he is predicted to find the sword Excalibur (pre-King Arthur) and wield it against his enemies. Shot on location in the countryside and with camera work that looks beautifully done (CGI to the minimum, it seems -- cross your fingers). (KM) Rated PG-13





NO RESERVATIONS


A workaholic, humorless chef (Catherine Zeta-Jones) takes time off to become the guardian of her recently orphaned niece (Abigail Breslin). While she's out, the restaurant hires a happy, freewheeling chef (Aaron Eckhart) to cover for her. When she returns, he stays, and the story turns into a sort of emotional food fight, with him worshipping her, and her despising him. Too many story changes, without any explanations, spoil the broth. And everything comes out just as you think it will. (ES) Rated PG





RATATOUILLE


Brad Bird, the genius behind the animated films The Iron Giant and The Incredibles, returns with a Pixar film about a food-loving rat in Paris who turns out to be a great chef, and becomes the brains behind the new concoctions at a restaurant that's popular, but has seen better days. It has exquisite visuals, superb voice acting, and a lovely story about the importance of friendship and family. It's also a riot. (ES) Rated G





RUSH HOUR 3


Chris Tucker still gets a few zingers in this third installment of the fire-and-ice buddy-cop series, but the series' main assets -- Jackie Chan's adorable English and astonishing acrobatics -- are this film's greatest liability. Chan seems old and weary, and his stunts and fight scenes hardly dazzle like they used to, as the two cops try to crack an international crime syndicate. The only saving grace is a lovable French cabbie who's hungry for American action. Too bad this series seems to have lost its appetite. (JS) Rated R





SKINWALKERS


Skinwalkers wins the contest for creepiest horror title of the summer, though it's not immediately obvious that this is a werewolf film. The skinwalkers (taking their name from Navajo demons) of the title are shape-shifters who eat human flesh, lending a suitably gruesome supporting cast to a film in which two warring groups fight over a prophetic 13-year-old boy. (MD) Rated R





THE SIMPSONS MOVIE


The Simpsons Movie is just about as funny as four of the television episodes. So what's the point? Nostalgia basically, but with a bigger budget, higher stakes, larger scale, in-jokes galore... and, strangely, an actual plot. If nothing else, 18 years have taught Matt Groening and his team of 10 other writers the cynicism that builds when a beloved show runs a decade too long. It's exactly what we should have expected. That means, I guess it's all we could have honestly hoped. (LB) Rated PG-13





STARDUST


A magical, comedy-laced fantasy about some people in long-ago England searching for a star that has fallen to Earth and taken human form (Claire Danes). If one of the rotten sons of a dying king finds it, he'll be the heir. If an evil old witch (Michelle Pfeiffer) gets it, she'll stay young and make life miserable for all. If a wide-eyed and innocent lad (Charlie Cox) retrieves it, he'll win the hand of the woman he thinks is his true love. Fabulous special effects, a terrific story and some scenery chewing by Robert De Niro. (ES) Rated PG-13





SUPERBAD


Three high school seniors -- two pals (Jonah Hill and Michael Cera) and a dorky hanger-on (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) -- try to find booze for a big party while trying not to think about the fact that college will soon separate them. Equal parts raucous, funny, and sweet, this is far from your usual teen comedy, mainly due to the touch of producer Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up). It's a goofy class act, with sharp dialogue amid outrageous situations. (ES) Rated R





TRANSFORMERS


Autobots and Decepticons descend to Planet Earth to continue their longtime battle and search for a missing source of power. It's one of those good-versus-evil things. But Earth's occupants don't have much to do but get out of the way of these huge machines that can convert into cars, trucks and planes. Directed by Michael Bay. Much eye-popping devastation and unexpected humor. (ES) Rated PG-13

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